In Cook County, 12 percent of older adults live in poverty – within the city of Chicago, that number jumps to 16 percent. 183,000 older adults in Cook County are at risk of hunger due to limited budgets, declining mobility, or medical issues, which can lead people to make heartbreaking decisions such as choosing between paying for medication or food. In response to this need, the Food Depository collaborates with older adult living communities and senior centers to provide food for older adults facing food insecurity.
In Cook County, 1 in 7 individuals struggle with food insecurity. To help alleviate hunger, the Greater Chicago Food Depository sent nearly 69 million pounds of food into the community in FY18. The Food Depository distributes food through a network of 700 community programs, including 450 agencies such as soup kitchens, shelters and food pantries. In order to operate efficiently, agency coordinators must be in consistent communication with the Food Depository to troubleshoot any issues, learn of new resources, remain in compliance with reporting requirements, and maintain successful food programs.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) is the country’s primary nutrition assistance program, yet thousands of eligible families do not receive the benefits. Since 2007, the Benefits Outreach Team at the Greater Chicago Food Depository has assisted eligible households submit SNAP applications to the Illinois Department of Human Services, and has been part of the State’s SNAP Outreach Plan since 2009. The team is comprised of outreach staff, partner community organizations and volunteers. In FY17, the Food Depository’s Benefits Outreach Team assisted 7,634 households apply for SNAP and Medicaid benefits.
According to Feeding America’s Hunger in America 2014 national report, 45 percent of clients served by programs affiliated with Feeding America’s network of food banks are not enrolled in SNAP. The study indicates that 72 percent of client households not receiving SNAP are eligible for the program based on self-reported income, but have not enrolled because they are unaware that they qualify.
Currently in Cook County, one in six children are food insecure, not knowing when or from where their next meal will come. Childhood food insecurity is linked to increased hospitalization and obesity, and children experiencing hunger are more likely to experience serious short- and long-term health issues into adulthood. They also often have trouble learning and are more prone to behavioral and emotional problems. Research indicates that even mild under-nutrition experienced by children during critical periods of growth may impair brain development. Because hunger and academic performance are closely linked, the Food Depository strives to provide every child in Cook County with access to the nutrient-rich foods necessary to thrive and achieve success both inside and outside of the classroom. In particular, the organization focuses on ensuring all children have access to breakfast as they begin the school day.
Two VISTA fellows will establish and cultivate partnerships with schools, teachers, administrators, parents and the community on the promotion of Breakfast After the Bell for children through the National School Breakfast Program. Additionally, VISTAs will support schools that currently have Breakfast After the Bell to maximize program efficiency.
The Food Depository’s Hunger Action Corps program engages and cultivates social justice leaders who want to gain experience fighting hunger. Through a combination of service, experiential learning and formal training opportunities, Hunger Action Corps members make a difference in the lives of Cook County residents while gaining valuable skills that will transform their own.
Since 2009, 90 AmeriCorps members have supported Food Depository programs that connect food insecure individuals to vital programs with the vision of creating stronger, healthier communities. In that time, Corps members have also enhanced their skills to become the next generation of social justice leaders.
Throughout their service term, VISTAs receive a modest living allowance of $14,196 (paid bi-weekly). Upon successful completion of their term of service, AmeriCorps VISTA members have an option to receive a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award ($5,920)or an end of service stipend ($1,800). AmeriCorps VISTAs may also be eligible for health benefits, child care assistance, and student loan forbearance.
Please click on the following link to apply for this opportunity: AmeriCorps VISTA - Breakfast Outreach Coordinator